Amnesty International has urged the Nigerian government to expand the space for Freedom of Expression amid attacks on individuals expressing dissenting views.
The global right body said this on Monday at the launch of #TalkYourTruth – a campaign aimed at protecting and promoting freedom of expression.
“The #TalkYourTruth campaign is aimed at protecting the right to freedom of expression and documenting cases of intimidation, arrest or threats to those who express opinions the government, people or group of people may find offensive,” Osai Ojigho, Amnesty International country director, said.
In his comments, the keynote speaker, Jaiye Gaskia, harped on the value of freedom of expression to the important project of democracy-building in Nigeria, stressing that the “whole idea of government, the very notion that the central purpose of government is the security and welfare of citizens must be understood as a practical test of accountability and something that can only be enabled within the freedom of expression.”
Mr Gaskia emphasized the indivisibility and interdependence of rights; asking Nigerians to make reasoned choices to be active citizens by constantly engaging in citizen’s actions.
In his remarks, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Rafsanjani, reinforced the theme of the keynote speech calling on the Nigerian government to increase support for human rights.
He challenged the Nigerian authorities to expand the space for dissent and criticism adding that without a spirit of toleration in governance, democracy will be impossible to achieve.
Mr Rafsanjani said he wants law enforcement personnel to be trained on human rights, saying, “they tend to make bad situations worse by their ignorance of the country’s obligations to human rights treaties we have committed to.”
Mr Ojigho added that: “It is unacceptable that in Nigeria those who exercise freedom of expression through critical opinions sometimes face threats, verbal and physical assault, indiscriminate arrest, torture, detention and prosecution through trumped-up charges and abuse of the cybercrime and anti-terrorism laws.
“Nigerians must be free to express opinions without fear.”
According to Amnesty International, Nigerian law enforcement agencies often fail to protect the right to freedom of expression, endangering the lives of those who dare to criticize authorities, those in power or institutions.
“With the launch of the #TalkYourTruth campaign, we are urging the Nigerian authorities to show tangible commitment to freedom and also to immediately and unconditionally drop frivolous charges against those persecuted solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression.” Ms Ojigho said.
“Those who express opinions others find offensive must be protected from the threats of state and non-state actors,” he said adding, “Intimidating radio and television stations that broadcast critical opinions with threats of fine or closure must end.”
“It is the duty of authorities to ensure that people can freely express critical opinions, without fear of reprisals,” she Ojigho said.
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